Ayesha Asad
Mercury Staff

Team strives for more goals this season, hopes mid-August preparation will help players through upcoming fall matches

After taking a summer break, the men’s soccer team is looking forward to creating more opportunities to score this season, as well as build a strong team dynamic. 

Jason Hirsch, head men’s soccer coach, is striving to score more goals this season compared to the last. The team finished the 2018 season with 13 wins, three losses and two ties.

“Our goal is to compete week-in and week-out, and try to win every single game we play,” Hirsch said. “Our focus will be on trying to concede as few goals as possible, while trying to score as many as possible.  We would like to score more total goals than last fall, and that will be a lot of our focus: trying to create and score goals.”

The team officially started training on Thursday, Aug. 15, and are practicing rigorously in order to reach the American Southwest Conference championships towards the end of the season. Last season, the team headed to the ASC title match after scoring a last-minute goal against East Texas Baptist, but lost 1-0 to Mary-Hardin Baylor in the next game.

“This season, like last, we need to show up hungry for a conference championship,” junior midfielder Merek Byckovski. “This means competing in both matches and practices, but more simply what head coach Hirsch emphasizes: a winning mentality. As long as we enter the conference tournament healthy and playing our game, we should be set for a conference ring and NCAA tournament run.”

The players hold all the necessary elements of a resilient team, Hirsch said, and that makes the men’s soccer roster a team with great promise. 

“All good teams need talent, good team chemistry, a winning mentality and leadership from within the group of players,” he said. “We have been speaking with our squad and talking about these things specifically for the last few years, and we think this team has a lot of potential if they can bring all of these aspects into their planning.”

In order to develop this potential, Hirsch is planning on adapting a novel strategy better suited to the team. 

“We are trying a new shape, which is a little more complicated but is one I believe could really work well with our squad,” he said. “Many of the concepts are the same, but we will try and be more aggressive on the attack and commit numbers into the final one-third.”

Thirteen new freshmen and one transfer student are joining the team this year. To help them integrate into the team successfully, senior defender Mason Anderson plans to make them feel welcome.

“I have been lucky enough to be named captain by my teammates, so I truly do enjoy encouraging my teammates and getting the best out of them in high-pressure situations,”  Anderson said. “As for the new recruits and transfers, I actively seek to make them feel like part of the team. Being a transfer myself, I know what it feels like to be the new guy, so I make sure to reach out to those guys. The last thing they’re expecting is for a senior captain to take an interest in them, so that’s exactly what I do.”

Returning players may face a challenge as well. With the new strategy in mind and the ambition to advance to national-level competitions, Anderson emphasized the importance of staying optimistic.

“The easiest way to keep up team spirit is to win games, but we also have many great leaders on the team that are doing an excellent job every day to maintain a positive culture within the team,” Anderson said. “We do this by encouraging one another and lifting each other up when we make mistakes or aren’t having the best day on the pitch.”

Byckovski attributed the team’s success to his coaches and peers. 

“We could not achieve the success we reach year-in and out without the professionals around us,” Byckovski said. “And although college soccer can seem like a job at times with so many commitments and trips throughout the semester, my teammates make the experience exciting, enjoyable and certainly memorable.”